Friday, September 10, 2010
So I did a little business travel. I flew into Cincinnati, where the airport is across the river in Kentucky, and spent a lovely afternoon and part of an evening with Goth and Psyche. All hail both. They're awesome, Goth showed me his city, and I went out to dinner with them after a brief visit with their awesome children. They dropped me off back at my hotel, and the next morning I drove into deep Kentucky, passing the above on I-75 (though I shot the picture on the return trip).
I have a little bit to say about my business. Part of it involved a political event in deep rural Kentucky, where a company with which my company is associated just opened up a place that will provide a buttload of jobs. The governor was there, and the district's Congressman, and a whole passel of local pols. I went in expecting...well, not much, other than a waste of five hours of my life that could be better used productively wringing necks.
What I got was something a bit different. In my local locality, we have a view of the economy that, to those of you who live out in America, is probably by turns jaded, peculiar, and insulting. My local locality has the good fortune of being very nearly recession-proof, owing to the proximity of your local Federal government. We got government jobs, we got contractor jobs, we got jobs for people who target or leverage the government, we got jobs to serve all those folks who work for or with the government in one way or another. It really works, and unemployment around here is always lower than elsewhere in America. We've a tendency to take all this for granted.
The main place I go in Kentucky is a fairly sizeable town, as things go, on the interstate--two whole exits worth--a county seat, a bit of a tourist gateway near other tourist gateways. We mounted up and rode a good 75 minutes or so in a direction that does not get one closer to any other interstate highway, in any significant sense (yes, technically it got me closer to both I-5 and I-40, but that's not what we're talking about here). It's pretty damned rural, especially to urban and suburban folk. And that's where I met the locals, including their pols.
Long stories short, there was speechifying, and testimonials from young single mothers who, but for this facility that our partner opened up (and to which we've contributed a few jobs, like less than five percent of the total), wouldn't have any job prospects at all. I got a very close look at the effects of rural development, and at the faces of those who benefit. It's easy to make light of hillbillies, and I do. But I have to tell you, these folks are poor Americans scraping by (or not), and they're so happy to have ass-suck $14-an-hour jobs available that it'll make you cry. Around here, my lowest-paid employees get closer to $20 hourly, and their jobs bite. The Kentucky jobs are, at least, desk jobs, but in a closely monitored and supervised environment. I'd hate their job, and most of you would too. These folks bust their humps to excel at jobs we'd think of as crap. It's a different world out there, where people need.
So I shook hands with a Republican Congressman, and with a Democratic Governor, who held me fast by the elbow as politicians do, thanking me--me!--for my company's contribution to this economic renaissance in a county of about 20,000 people with a median income of jack shit. I told him how moved I was, and after a little chitchat around the theme of rural development, slyly winked and wished him--the only other Democrat in the room, as near as I could tell--luck in his election year next year.
Then there was a feed. It was a lot like a wedding or a funeral that way. It was a pretty good feed, actually.
I've spent a lot of time lately feeling pretty sorry for myself on account of work. I'm busy, I'm scattered, and I'm having to spend far too much time travelling to rural Kentucky. When I go and shake hands with folks who genuinely tell me how damned glad they are to make $14 an hour to be regimented and conformed, who thank me for my tiny part in just making jobs available in their neighborhood, when I view what I'm doing as exploitation? I guess it's time for me to recalibrate that shit. Maybe I'll let you know how that goes. Or not.